Thanksgiving History

Thanksgiving History, Trivia, and Fun Facts

Thanksgiving History Highlights

  • The first Thanksgiving was probably in September or early October. The one thing we don’t know is the exact dates, but we do know it was a three-day event. The Indians did celebrate with the Pilgrims, and over the past 400 years, some of the specifics have gotten a little fuzzy. There are some people who claim the First Thanksgiving was actually earlier, in Virginia or even Canada.
  • The Pilgrims did not celebrate Easter or Christmas, believing they were based on Pagan celebrations.
  • The Mayflower, the Pilgrims’ ship, is also called the Epigaea repens. In 1629, a second ship called the Mayflower made a voyage from London to Plymouth Colony, carrying thirty-five passengers; the original was scrapped after its trip home.
  • The trip to Plymouth Rock took 66 days, with 105 passengers (2 died on the way) and an estimated crew of 25-30. William Bradford wrote everything we know about the trip.
  • Unlike today’s feast, which includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc., the original Thanksgiving menu probably included duck, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. The pilgrims weren’t really prepared for baking and didn’t have access to butter, etc., so they did not have pies on the first Thanksgiving.
  • In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November to be a National Day of Thanksgiving. That idea was pushed by a Philadelphia writer named  Sarah Hale.  The Civil War was going on, and she wanted to remind people that there was still a lot to be thankful for in the United States.
  • In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday of November. The big reason was Christmas Shopping. 
    This gives four full weeks of the Holiday Shopping Season. This year, as of Black Friday, we have 26 Shopping Days until Christmas.
  • The big one is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. It is the World’s Largest Parade — It started in 1924 and has been televised since 1952.  It also features one of Santa’s Helpers at the parade’s end to officially open The Holiday Season. 
    PCM’s sources say The Real Santa is actually at The oldest Thanksgiving Parade in Philadelphia –  Now called the 6abc Dunkin’
    Thanksgiving Day Parade was originally The Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade, which started in 1920 on November 25. (Take our 1920 Quiz!)
  • More Thanksgiving Facts, Traditions & Trivia

Traditional Thanksgiving Pardon

Every year before the Thanksgiving holiday, the President chooses a turkey or two to spare from your dining room table. In a ceremony at the White House, one official turkey and the occasional alternate gobbler are pardoned.

Some say that this tradition started with Harry Truman in 1947*, but it became official in 1989, with President G.W. Bush. Rumor has it, President Truman ‘pardoned’ turkey was his selected Thanksgiving meal.

Names for the lucky birds are chosen by voters on the White House website.

Here is a list of some previously pardoned turkeys:
1863 – Jack, Tad Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, kept him as a pet.
1947 – no documentation, the Truman family probably ate it.
1999 – Harry
2000 – Jerry
2001 – Liberty
2002 – Katie (the first pardoned female turkey) and Zack
2003 – Stars and Stripes
2004 – Biscuit and Gravy
2005 – Marshmallow and Yam
2006 – Flyer and Fryer
2007 – May and Flower
2008 – Pumpkin and Pecan
2009 – Courage and Carolina
2010 – Apple and Cider
2011 – Liberty and Peace
2012 – Cobbler and Gobbler
2013 – Popcorn and Caramel
2014 – Cheese and Mac
2015 – Abe and Honest
2016 – Tator and Tot
2017 – Drumstick and Wishbone
2018 – Peas and Carrots
2019 – Bread and Butter
2020 – Corn and Cob
2021 – Peanut Butter and Jelly
2022 – Chocolate and Chip
2023- Libert and Bell

Turkey Trivia

  • Only male Turkeys ‘Gobble”.
  • Turkeys are native to North America.
  • Male Turkeys are called Toms, female turkeys are called Hens and baby turkeys are called poults.
  • The red skin attached to the underside of a turkey’s beak is called a ‘wattle’. 
  • Benjamin Franklin argued that the Turkey should be our National Bird.

Thanksgiving Etiquette

  • Dress appropriately and arrive on time.
  • A centerpiece for the table should never be anything prepared by a taxidermist.
  • Do not bring uninvited guests.
  • Do not allow the dog to eat at the table… no matter how good his manners are.
  • No scented candles!
  • The eldest member(s) should sit first.
  • Never arrive empty-handed.
  • If dining in a restaurant, tip unusually well.
  • Big game on the television? Turn the TV off during the meal. Same with cell phones.
  • No discussion of politics. Make a game of it – first who does must get drinks or serve to the rest of the table.
  • Offer to help clean up, and mean it.

Thanksgiving Quotes

“I love November and the American tradition of Thanksgiving. But in reality, every day should be Thanksgiving.”
– Sharon Jaynes, Does God Feel at Home in Your Heart?

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
– Willie Nelson

“The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so.”
– Nora Ephron

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.”
Amy Grant

“Thanksgiving is the expression of gratitude, an acknowledgment of favors or divine goodness. It is an act of appreciation, often directed to God for all He has done or is doing in our lives.”
– Joseph A Iyongo, Thanksgiving: Recipe for Blessed Living

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
John F. Kennedy

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
– Thornton Wilder

“Thanksgiving day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.”
– E.P. Powell

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
– Friedrich Koenig

Thanksgiving Jokes

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store but she couldn’t find one big enough for her family.
She asked a stock boy, ‘Do these turkeys get any beggir?’ The stock boy replied, ‘No ma’am, they’re dead.’

“May I say the prayer before Thanksgiving dinner?”
Tom asked gracefully.

Thanksgiving, for me, was the only holiday that wasn’t completely commercialized like Christmas, Halloween, and Easter till Black Friday rolled around.

How many cooks does it take to stuff a turkey?
Only one, but you REALLY have to squeeze to get him in.

Why did the pilgrim’s pants fall down?
Because he had his buckle in his hat.

When does Christmas come before Thanksgiving?
In the dictionary.

If April showers bring May flowers what do May flowers bring?

Uncredited Thanksgiving Quotes

I’m excited about Thanksgiving because I love unwelcome parenting advice from relatives I see twice a year.

Thanksgiving is great because people tend to speak less when food is lodged in their mouths.

There is a special place in hell for people that play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

You don’t need Thanksgiving to hate your family.

Turkeys make the same sound that Americans do as they consume them every Thanksgiving.

If I was a turkey, I’d be doing everything I could to taste terrible right now.

On Thanksgiving Day, all over America, families sit down to dinner at the same moment… halftime.

Happy Turkey Day, America! Don’t forget to name the turkey and make everyone uncomfortable.

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.

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